Genetic diversity of giant clams (Tridacna spp.) and their associated Symbiodinium in the central Red Sea

Melissa Pappas, Song He, Royale Hardenstine, Hana Kanee, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The biodiversity of the Red Sea remains relatively understudied, particularly for invertebrate taxa. Documenting present patterns of biodiversity is essential for better understanding Red Sea reef ecosystems and how these ecosystems may be impacted by stressors (such as fishing and climate change). Several species of giant clams (genus Tridacna) are reported from the Red Sea, although the majority of research effort has occurred in the Gulf of Aqaba. We investigated the genetic diversity (16S rDNA) of the Tridacna species found in the central Saudi Arabian Red Sea. We also investigated the genetic diversity (ITS rDNA) of symbiotic dinoflagellates Symbiodinium associated with these clams. Samples were collected from nine reefs on a cross-shelf gradient near Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Two species, T. squamosa and T. maxima, were recorded, with the latter being the most abundant. Tridacna squamosina, a species recently reported in the northern Red Sea, was not found, suggesting that this species is not present or is very rare in our study region. All tridacnids sampled were found to harbor Symbiodinium grouped in Clade A, considered an opportunistic, heat-tolerant symbiont group in anemones and corals. The consistent association with Clade A Symbiodinium in central Red Sea tridacnids may reflect the consequence of adaptation to the relatively extreme conditions of the Red Sea. This study contributes to an ever-growing catalog of Red Sea biodiversity and serves as important baseline information for a region experiencing dynamic pressures.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1209-1222
Number of pages14
JournalMarine Biodiversity
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2017


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